Derby County were forced to settle for a point as a stubborn Preston North End held firm to claim a 0-0 draw at the iPro Stadium.
In a game of very few opportunities, Craig Bryson went closest to breaking the deadlock with just minutes to spare, but he lashed his low drive agonisingly wide, whilst Scott Carson had to be at his best in the first half to tip over a drive from Paul Gallagher.
Rock solid at the back, both sides never looked like being breached as Paul Clement’s men arrested their three- game losing streak and claimed their first clean sheet since Boxing Day.
Despite the slog, Derby were actually quick out of the traps and started like a steam train, creating three clear openings in the space of as many minutes as they went in search of an early goal.
Jeff Hendrick, restored to the starting XI in place of Bradley Johnson, slipped a low shot just wide, whilst Nick Blackman saw a shot deflected over and Jason Shackell directed a trickling header out for a goal kick.
The visitors’ only notable chance inside the first quarter of an hour saw Ben Pearson shoot straight down Scott Carson’s throat after a neat exchange with Adam Reach, but that aside Derby controlled the territorial game.
Showing better movement and imagination with the ball, the hosts were relentless off it as Derby chased, pressed and ultimately rushed Simon Grayson’s side, limiting them in possession across the park.
As they have done so many times this season, Clement’s side came up against a well-drilled and organised side that came with the objective of stifling everything Derby threw at them.
Without the ball, Preston offered solidity and comfortably dealt with a series of crosses that came from either flank as Derby were frustrated in their efforts to force Ander Lindegaard, making his debut, into a save over the course of the first 45 minutes.
At the other end, however, Carson was called into action, pulling off a fine save to tip behind Gallagher’s strike from range over his crossbar and later, the same man sent a dipping volley over as the visitors began to grow in confidence.
The second half continued in the same manner as Hendrick, quickly swarmed by yellow and blue shirts, was denied a shot at Lindegaard’s goal, whilst at the other end, Daniel Johnson drew a comfortable save from Carson during a period of sparring.
At either end, Jacob Butterfield and Calum Woods drove efforts wide as the game descended into a midfield battle with neither side looking likely to break the deadlock.
With seven minutes remaining, Joe Garner cut inside from the right, but could force Carson into a simple save at his near post and Shackell was called upon seconds later to crucially block Reach’s first time shot from a cut back.
Bryson, the substitute, had the hosts best opportunity with just minutes remaining as he lashed a drive narrowly wide of Lindegaard’s far post after the visitors failed to deal with a corner and despite late pressure, the hard fought contest ended as it started.
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Keogh, Shackell, Warnock (C), Thorne, Butterfield, Hendrick (Bryson, 72); Ince (Russell, 86), Blackman (Camara, 67), Martin
Substitutes not used: Grant, Baird, Johnson, Olsson
Preston North End: Lindegaard, Clarke, Wright, Huntington, Woods, Cunningham, Pearson, Gallagher (Browne, 86), Johnson, Reach (Hugill, 90), Garner
Substitutes not used: Kirkland, Vermijl, Kilkenny, Doyle, Robinson
Attendance: 27,252Tweets by @ dcfcofficial